U.S. issues hurricane rule for drilling platforms
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the start of the hurricane season just over six weeks away, the U.S. Interior Department on Tuesday issued a rule to make sure offshore oil and gas drilling platforms have a better chance of surviving big storms.
The department hopes to avoid the type of severe damage done to the U.S. energy sector by Hurricane Katrina and other storms during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons that destroyed 123 drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and damaged dozens of others, knocking out a big chunk of domestic oil and gas production for months.
The department's Minerals Management Service rule is making official the American Petroleum Institute guidelines issued post Katrina that companies are already following by adopting more stringent designs for both new and existing offshore drilling structures to better withstand high winds, big waves, strong currents and storm surges.
"The new criteria will increase survivability during hurricane conditions and result in fewer damaged platforms, thereby protecting critical oil and gas resources and making those resources available after hurricane events," the MMS said.
The hurricane safety rule, which was published in Tuesday's Federal Register of government regulations, takes effect on May 15.
Colorado State University's noted hurricane research team has said it expects 15 tropical storms and eight hurricanes to form in the upcoming six-month Atlantic storm season, which begins on June 1.
Four of those hurricanes are forecast to become major storms with winds of at least 111 miles per hour (178 kph).
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy)